The reality of its saturation in the North and western parts coupled with the BJP’s inexhaustible capacity for expansion has fuelled the ruling party’s aggressive push into the southern provinces in the ongoing elections. After four extended tours in the South, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to attend at least 30-35 public outreach programmes during the campaign in these States. This publicity around these campaigns is matched with a carefully crafted strategy for each of the States.

For the most fascinating contest in Tamil Nadu, the BJP has adopted a unique strategy through its crusader-like party chief, the 39-year-old K Annamalai. Unlike other States where the BJP has used regional parties for its own expansion, in Tamil Nadu, it has chosen to chart its own territory by isolating the Dravidian major, AIADMK, and tying up with smaller parties. Into the BJP fold is the Vanniyar grouping of PMK which is strong in the northern districts, the TMC led by GK Vasan and the AMMK led by TTV Dhinakaran. The BJP also merged with itself actor Sarathkumar’s party, the SMK. The idea is to edge out a truncated AIADMK with a fresh appeal and take its vote share in the State to double digit from 3.66 per cent in 2019.

In Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, the BJP has adopted the more conventional tactic of aligning with established parties. While it has its strongest base in Karnataka, having won 25 of the 28 seats in the State with 51.75 per cent of the vote, it has not left anything to chance after the Assembly election defeat and tied up with the JD(S). In Andhra Pradesh, the BJP has the unique distinction of being friendly with the ruling YSRCP of YS Jagan Mohan Reddy but is in an alliance with the opposition TDP of N Chandrababu Naidu and Jana Sena of Pawan Kalyan. Although the BJP did not win a single seat with barely 0.9 per cent of the vote in the 2019 elections, it is in a sweet spot in this State, having aligned with the principal opposition party when popular disenchantment with Jagan Mohan Reddy is high. But the AP story is not replicated in neighbouring Telangana where the Congress has seen a revival under the leadership of Chief Minister Revanth Reddy. The BJP here is engineering defections from the beleaguered BRS of K Chandrashekar Rao.

In Kerala, the BJP’s vote share has remained below 13 per cent but is hopeful of filling the vacuum being created by the perceived weakening of the Congress. It has simultaneously fielded some high profile candidates, including Union Minister Rajeev Chandrashekhar from Thiruvananthapuram, and merged with itself the Kerala Janapaksham (Secular) in the hope of invading the Christian heartlands in central and north Kerala. The BJP appears determined not to let the failures of its past — having won just 29 of the total 130 seats in the southern States in the 2019 general elections — dent its ambition and aggressive appeal to the voters of south India this time. The elections in the South are set to be fascinating.